Paul Manafort and the FBI
Paul Manafort and the FBI

The first shoes have dropped in Robert S. Mueller III’s inves­ti­ga­tion:

Spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Robert S. Mueller III on Mon­day revealed charges against three for­mer Trump cam­paign offi­cials — for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort, his long­time busi­ness part­ner Rick Gates and for­mer Trump for­eign pol­i­cy advis­er George Papadopou­los — mark­ing the first crim­i­nal alle­ga­tions to come from probes into pos­si­ble Russ­ian influ­ence in U.S. polit­i­cal affairs.

Papadopou­los plead­ed guilty ear­li­er this month to mak­ing a false state­ment to FBI inves­ti­ga­tors who asked about his con­tacts with a for­eign­er who claimed to have high-lev­el Russ­ian con­nec­tions, and the agree­ment was unsealed Mon­day. Court doc­u­ments described exten­sive efforts Papadopou­los made to try to bro­ker con­nec­tions with Russ­ian offi­cials and arrange a meet­ing between them and the Trump cam­paign, though some emails show his offers were rebuffed.

High­light­ing is ours.

White House res­i­dent Don­ald Trump imme­di­ate­ly tried to deflect the news, angri­ly sug­gest­ing his oppo­nents should be the tar­get of any inves­ti­ga­tion, while also declar­ing, “there is no COLLUSION!” The more Trump makes such denials, though, the more he rein­forces the nar­ra­tive about poten­tial collusion.

It’s Don’t Think of An Ele­phant 101:

When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.

Richard Nixon found that out the hard way. While under pres­sure to resign dur­ing the Water­gate scan­dal, Nixon addressed the nation on TV. He stood before the nation and said, “I am not a crook.” And every­body thought about him as a crook.

Here’s the begin­ning of The Wash­ing­ton Post’s sto­ry about that extra­or­di­nary state­ment, deliv­ered to a gath­er­ing of Asso­ci­at­ed Press edi­tors:

Declar­ing that “I am not a crook,” Pres­i­dent Nixon vig­or­ous­ly defend­ed his record in the Water­gate case tonight and said he had nev­er prof­it­ed from his pub­lic service.

“I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of pub­lic life I have nev­er obstruct­ed jus­tice,” Mr. Nixon said.

“Peo­ple have got to know whether or not their Pres­i­dent is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned every­thing I’ve got.”

Man­afort and Gates are due to be arraigned in court today.

(UPDATE: They’ve pled not guilty to the charges, as expected.)

Man­afort, as men­tioned above in The Wash­ing­ton Post’s sto­ry, was the Trump cam­paign’s chair­man for a cru­cial chunk of 2016, while Gates was his deputy. Man­afort came aboard in March of 2016 (bring­ing Gates with him) and remained at the helm until being oust­ed in August of 2016.

Man­afort and Gates were hired by the Trump oper­a­tion months after Trump vowed to “sur­round myself only with the best and most seri­ous peo­ple,” in an August 2015 inter­view. “We want top of the line pro­fes­sion­als,” Trump claimed.

How about lying, mon­ey laun­der­ing criminals?

“You don’t see this sen­tence every morn­ing: The for­mer cam­paign chair­man of the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States will be charged with a fed­er­al crime,” not­ed David Leon­hardt of The New York Times, who point­ed out that Trump is an incred­i­bly weak posi­tion over­all despite hav­ing a firm grip on the Repub­li­can Party.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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